Passenger traffic at Dubai airport rose by 13%  in 2003 to 18.06 million people from 15.9 million the previous year.

Volume of freight in the same period soared by 21.5% to 939,966 tons from 784,997 tons, Khaleej Times said on Friday, quoting civil aviation chief Shaikh Ahmad bin Saeed al-Maktum, who is also chairman of Dubai's Emirates airline. 

The number of flights into and out of the airport reached 168,511, up 12.5% on 149,844 the previous year. 

"Dubai is now the business and leisure destination of the region. We have attracted new airlines and can truly be regarded as a hub with 105 airlines," Shaikh Ahmad said. "We expect the growth to continue in 2004." 

Annual traffic

Dubai expects to handle annual traffic of about 30 million passengers by 2010 and more than 60 million by 2020. To cope with the anticipated increase, the airport is being expanded at a cost of about four billion dollars to include a third terminal, exclusively for Emirates passengers, as well as a cargo mega-terminal. 

The new Emirates terminal, designed by France's Aeroports de
Paris (ADP), will be in the shape of a giant plane wing almost one kilometre long. 

If growth continues into the second decade, the Gulf city-state plans to build a totally new airport near the free zone of Jabal Ali, 50 kms out of town.